Homebrew Humber Side Swiper.
Gained my Ham 'A' license about February 1992 and became very active on the HF bands, mostly on 20 and 40 metres. My main rig was a Yaesu FT 101E which served me well on a long wire antenna for a lot of years. I do remember that I was a member of the G-QRP Club. Membership number 68 as G7MBN. Later, as G0TUJ I joined MEGS as Member number 7141. Having trained on the 'straight' key I stuck with it, never being able to exceed 20 wpm with it, though to be fair, I was never comfortable reading code at any faster than 20 wpm either.
I was always fascinated by the Side Swiper as depicted on SSN, but it never entered my head to make or use one myself. Later, when Cancer crept in I sold my rig and my collection of keys as I did not have much in the way of life expectancy. Now though, to my surprise, I am still here, though in very shaky health and not daring to hope for very much longer. I came back to CW and although not having a rig, decided to try and make it on the CWCOM scene. By this time Arthritis meant I could no longer use a 'straight' key so I decided to try and make myself a 'Cootie' key, which I did, using a piece of old hardwood, a broken hacksaw blade, a set of adjustable contacts from an old Kent key and a heavy block of brass which served as an anchor for the hacksaw blade and added some much needed weight so as the key didn't move about when in use.
My 'Cootie' has suffered a lot in the way of alterations and adjustments. First off it was way too whippy and I was at a loss as to how to stop this. I did think of swapping the hacksaw blade for a heavier one, but this would have cost me a lot in flexibility. I eventually realised that the slot which I sawed in the brass block was a tad too wide and though I had fitted a grub screw to hold the hacksaw blade fast, there was some play at the end of the block. I solved this by tapping a steel shim, out of sight, alongside the blade and amazingly, it cured the whippiness and gave me a superb steady bend that felt just right. I have had no problems since. Like most operators I have had a struggle setting the contacts, but have now settled on a setting that just, only just, allows a piece of writing paper to slip between the hacksaw blade and the contacts. I can now send decent code (no I didn't say perfect) until I tire and my hand slips into sending gibberish. That's when I sign off.
I decided to fit feet on the corners of the hardwood base in the hope that it would deaden the inevitable tap and rattle of the mechanism and also aid in stopping the key from sliding on the desk top. For these I used some Boilermakers 1/4 inch rubber insertion, cut to size. I couldn't cover the whole of the base because of the wiring beneath. It did the job really good, But I still have the rattle and tap, of which I have come to find agreeable. All in all a 'Cootie' key that I would not part with for anything. Cost of the venture? A few dollars/pounds for the piece of brass. A few hours of my time. That's it! I still dream of getting a 1Watt QRP rig, even if it's in an Altoid tin and making my way back onto the HF bands. But that's another story. Hope you enjoy looking at my 'Cootie'. [G0TUJ].